Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Time flies in Africa....not really haha

Life has been so hectic here, sorry about not posting for the past few months. School break has come and gone and now the second term of school is almost finished. During my month long break, I travelled to Moshi region to see another volunteer. His region is really awesome, with a major city a hour away. By major I mean a high tourist area, where you can get all types of American style food. I went with another volunteer and it didn't start off to well.... we ended up sleeping on a bus because one of the gears of the bus broke and we had to wait for another one to be brought. Basically a 6-hour bus ride ended up being a 22 hour trip. But it was awesome once we got there and I was glad I went. It was a week of pure gluttony and partying and was something I definitely needed.
My plans for a science lab have been put on hold (maybe indefinitely?). Since the school isn't able to contribute 50 percent of the total cost, we are unable to proceed. At first I was upset because I found some people from home that were interested in helping, but I realized that it is probably for the best. This term is when a lot of teachers leave to go to university and all the math and science teachers(besides two) left. It would have been pretty difficult/impossible to do this on my own or with a teacher that has no real motivation to help with this project. So now I am trying to do something else to occupy my time (besides teaching) and I'm thinking about starting a pen-pal program with some of my students. I think this will help improve their English and allow to get to know youth around the world. If you are interested in helping email me! Also, I am trying to team up with some teachers here and start a health club to teach the kids about sexuality, proper condom use, and HIV/AIDS. It seems that many people know the basic facts, but people are scared to talk openly about it and follow the things they need to do to keep safe.
I can't believe I have been here for almost a year! The new health and environment volunteers came last week and it is good to have new people around. One of them is replacing a volunteer and one is starting at a new site. Both are in villages. It's good living in town because I will be able to see them when they come to shop! The new education volunteers come in September and I heard that we are getting 3 new volunteers. I went and visited the other people in my region because one of them is leaving for grad school soon. It was great seeing them and we had a lot of fun. We ended up watching X-Men cartoons and that was an interesting blast from the past. Did anyone else know that the character Storm was from Dodoma, Tanzania? It thought that was random but cool. Haha, it guess it's a small world! Last weekend was so awesome! One of my friends who just finished her service in Tz, sent me and the other volunteer a box. It was soooo amazing, we sat watching "Sex In the City" and eating sugar cookies with icing all night! We had so much fun (although all the sugar from the icing made us a little slap happy!) Thanks Pendo! You made our weekend!
There has been a collection of random events here in Singida. I was having some issues with my form1 students and almost lost my mind. I have never been so irritated at kids in my life. After I got over it, some other things started happening at school. So I haven't really been teaching for the past week and a half. I'm not for sure what's going on entirely, but I am enjoying my little mini vacay! Also sometime in September, there is a week-long break and I am excited to travel. In the new group of kids that came, one girl is black and Greek. I've been keeping in contact with her and maybe if I can get to her site in one day I may go visit her. If not, I might just travel around the region seeing other people's sites. I plan on going to Uganda sometime this year to visit one of my friends that is going to University there. Hopefully that happens! Also, a friend at home is interested in visiting Egypt, so I might go also, because it'll be amazing seeing the pyramids! I've been told that there is a big celebration for Christmas and New Years on Zanzibar, so I think that's where I'll be. If I can't be at home enjoying the snow and the wonderful Christmas season, I mine as well be sitting on the beach, enjoying the sun and drinking fruity drinks!
Right now is Ramadan (A month-long fast for Muslims). While the sun is up, they aren't able to eat or drink anything. I've been told they do this so they can recognize (and change) their behaviors that are seperating them from their God. I am thinking about doing it next year (some cultural exchange), but this year, it is way too hot not to drink anything. I am almost positive I would die! But I will participate in the celebration that breaks the fast. One of my site mates lives in a majority Muslim village, so we are going to get outfits made and participate in the festivities. I'm excited to go there and learn more about the religion, I think it's a pretty awesome religion, just not for me.
I cant believe so much has changed at home.... People having babies, getting married, etc. Not to mention the blast from the past with my family. I am not too happy, but thank God I am in Africa, because I can only imagine what happening with my family. It's random and sad, but I guess if that's what makes him happy... he must go for it. Well I miss you all and I hope all is well with everyone. I will try to write in here more often. (* Oh yeah, a new Internet cafe opened in town and it is SUPER fast, like America! I am sooooo excited!)

14 months to go! :-)
~ Guess I should figure out what I am going to do next.....

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

So Sorry!

Just wanted to say that whatever was wrong with my blog is now fixed and it is up and running smoothly. I dont have enough time to really write anything, but I will later this week.

Things are going well here, and I miss you all ALOT!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Summer break is here... THANK GOD!

I am so glad that this is the last few weeks of teaching for this term. The school closes around May 27th for a month long break for June. Teaching here is a lot more stressful than I anticipated! The next two weeks are exams for my form 4, so I will only be teaching my form 1 students. I am thinking about rearranging my teaching schedule so I will only teach Tues- Fri, so I can devote some time on secondary projects. I am hoping that by doing other projects here, it will help me keep sane (and enthusiastic) about being here. Teaching here has been a draining experience. I have had mostly good days, but sometimes the rain sets in and I question why I am here.

The school I am placed at is a pretty good in comparison to other schools in the country. The teacher turnover rate in this country is ridiculous, but there are a few devoted teachers at my school who wish to make it better for future generations. I'm trying to look for needs of the school/community for some secondary projects. I have notice there is no science lab at the school and interest has been expressed for one here. In Tanzania, students cant continue their education( go on to A-level (freshman and sophomore years of college)) if they aren't able to complete basic science experiments. Since my students don't have a lab, this means that this is impossible. They can take the written alternative, but it's extremely difficult (I tried last years the other day and thank god I am not teaching physics or chemistry). Also, with science it's difficult to grasp concepts of abstract ideas, so I think it will help students to just get an understanding of things. They don't even have exposure to basic instruments for these subjects, which I feel will help them greatly.

Currently I am in the beginning stages of this project like making sure Peace Corps approves it and ascertaining if the school would actually use it if they had access to a lab. I am also finding people to train teachers on how to use and maintain the equipment, compiling a list of materials that the science teachers would like and trying to locate a building on campus to convert to a science lab. Another very important thing I am doing is looking for outside grants to fund this project. Buying and shipping materials here would be the greatest cost and I am looking for any outside help. If you have any suggestions of people I could ask, let me know!

Also the other day I was walking around town and I ran (well not exactly ran) into this area that would be great for a outside fair or a concert. So I am thinking about getting together with some other volunteers in neighboring villages and doing an AIDS/HIV fair with booths of information, free drinks and snacks, maybe games and inviting some local performance groups for a talent show with a small cash prize. Worlds AIDs day is sometime in Nov or Dec, so maybe then or sometime next spring. There are also a few other small projects that I am also considering.

Other than teaching, exercising (tried to carry water on my head and spilled a 20 liter bucket of water on myself...funny story) and playing with the small kids ( we do the hokey-poky; or as they call it " kichwa ndani" at least 4 times a day! and we have a coloring day (although they have almost finished all my coloring books!)) my life is pretty non-exist ant. I am learning how to make "uji wa ulezi" (it's like cream of wheat) with some of the female teachers, which I am very excited about! If you have any suggestions of kid's songs or games ( I forget most of them), please send me! I am going crazy doing the hokey poky so much. ( There are 8 kids ranging from 8months to 6 years old.... sadly to say, they are my best friends here!). But overall, life is good and will be better once the term ends....haha

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

My birthday is coming...My birthday is coming

I hope all is well with everyone. I have been receiving a lot of texts and emails from people asking if I wanted anything for my birthday. I figured it would be easier to just write in a blog of the things I would need/want.

I would like:

1) Deodorant- (Degree)
2) Lotion
3)Body Wash
4)Clear fingernail polish

5)Candy (starbust, skittles (orange bag), gummie worms, ressee peices)
6)Beef jerky, Pepperoni
7)Condensed Milk (for baking)
8) Ramen Noodles
9) Magazines about whats going on in the states (Cosmo..hehe)

Anything else you would want to send... I will love it I'm sure!

My address is:
PO BOX 288
Singida, Tanzania
East Africa
Via Airmail

*Make sure you put Via Airmail because if not, it will come by boat and only God knows how long that will take...haha

Friday, April 17, 2009

Back in Sin-City.... Finally!

First, I never thought I would say this.... I am so glad to be back in Singida! I travelled around the country for the past few weeks, had an awesome time, but was very exhausted upon returning. It was great to see other wazungu (foreigners) and to be able to speak english. The first two weeks were spent in Morogoro for training. I was glad that I was able to see some people, but a little sad that they broke the training up into two groups depending on regions. The first week of training was about our experiences thus far and ideas for future projects and support. Also we did a lot of activities concerning gender empowerement and activities for orphans and vulnerable children ( I hope to become very active in these areas). Each volunteer was required to bring a counterpart ( a Tanzanian from the school or community) who would benefit from the seminar. I chose my Tanzanian Momma, she is a fellow teacher at the school. I was so happy that I brought her because she was very enthusiatic about learning about what WE can do to help our school! (Many times the communities only see the volunteers as "banks", so I was very glad she doesnt.)She is very proactive and a wonderful woman.

So we were in this women empowerment meeting and working on an activity about relationships and what we want from them and another volunteer's counterpart said he wanted his partner to be obedient... My Tz momma stood up and she was heated (let me tell you), she asked him if he wanted a housegirl or a wife! You might not understand the magnitude of this statement but I (and alot of other volunteers were shocked! Women in Tz don't speak this way to men... (sidenote: in some areas when women greet, serve food or speak to a man they must bow down to do these things... or if a man in sitting on a couch, a woman can not sit there, she must sit on the floor... I'm not critiquing, it's not my culture. I was just pointing it out.) So needless to say he looked a bit shaken and retracted his trait to be honest...haha, oh how I love my counterpart! She is great!

Also we learned about permaculture... hehe, can you even imagine me gardening. I guess you should. I'm planting some mchicha (spinach) and maybe some other things this weekend. (When I came back a week after my counterpart I found my backyard double-dugged (technique we learned at training) for a income generating project one of the students groups were doing... talk about sustainability, I didnt even have to be there!

The next week was about the AIDS. We had this highly intelligent, blunt, amazing female doctor come in and talk to us about AIDS. She was great because she was real, upfront and direct about the reasons why AIDS is spreading like wildfire in Africa! She was an inspiration and I just hope that I can bring her in to talk to my girls one day. ( It is widely believed here that AIDS is spread by women). Another volunteer told me about a debate where the students argued if women were the cause behind the high numbers of AIDS in Africa.... sadly the team that believed this was true won the debate. Not the fact that women have little or no power in this culture... but I digress. Also an interesting tid-bit of information that I learned from Tanzanians... There are 4 basic needs not 3 (like the rest of the world believes...lol): 1.Food 2. Water 3. Shelter and 4. Sex! One man even equated the neccessity of sex to food... he said if you go without it too long, you will die.... Oh Tanzania

So after all of training I traveled down by the southern coast of Tz to the beach to relax for a few days with some other volunteers. It was so much fun. One volunteer's site looks out onto the beach and honestly, its like looking in a travel brochure. It was absolutely gorgeous. We walked on sandy white beaches and swam in pretty blue water... I loved his site but Im glad I dont live there because I would never do anything but swim and eat awesome cheap seafood! (which would probably get me kicked out...haha... plus its way too hot there!) We walked along the beach and brought huge shrimp for like 10 cents a piece and big, tasty, yummy fish for 50 cents. I also bought a whole grilled octupus for 1 dollar and ate it while walking down the street. Ummmm... good times.

But now I am back in Singida, just finished the week of classes. Still have yet to finish grading mid-term exams (only 300 to go!). It's just kind of depressing grading tests that are 20 and 30 percent. Makes you wonder if you are even making a difference or serving any type of purpose. But I guess you cant expect change over night, it's a gradual process. My self-confidence was furthered shattered by this Tanzanian man that told me my swahili sucks for me having lived here for seven months...but then he started speaking english and my crappy swahilli trumped his ridiculously bad english! But he did motivate me to improve my swahilli... Now I am refusing to speak to anyone in English, hopefully this will help!

Funny Tanzanian quote of the week: "You look Tanzanian, but you cant be... you're too fat!" haha, and this is from a guy that was trying to date me... Oh the sweet talking men of Tanzania!

I miss you all and hope everyone is doing well!

Congrats to my sister for bringing in my new beautiful neice into this world! Hope all the other "preggies" are doing well...haha

Keep the mail coming... I miss hearing about the first world!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Elizabeth from Ohio is the BEST!

You are probably wondering who the hell Elizabeth is and why my blog entry is named after her? haha, she is a grad student that I met this past week who is doing her research in/around Dar es Salaam that I hung out with last week, she even gave me her old pair of running shoes, for which I deemed neccessarily to thank her by giving her the title of this blog...haha. You now are wondering what I was doing in Dar... it's a long story.

So two weeks ago my tooth started feeling a little weird so I wanted to get it checked out. In the US this requires a 30-45 min drive to your local dentist... well in Tanzania it was a journey that initially was supposed to be 3 days (max) that turned into a week and a half travel across the country of Tanzania. Along the way I met some awesome... and not so awesome people and had fun, almost cried and ate yummy food! haha (honestly at this point anything other than beans and ughali is yummy).

The trip to Dodoma is a 6 hour bus ride on an unpaved bumpy road for half way. (Never again will I complain about the potholes in Ohio). So for three hours you're bouncy up down and around on this bus in 100 degree weather, sounds fun right? But when we got there, we went shopping had awesome chinese food and met a white business man from South Africa... this is where it get's interesting. He was really nice. Although the first day we saw him, we almost killed him (and nearly everyone else in the resturant) with our fahijta entree.... but honestly it was worth it. The next night he offered to pay for our dinner and of course being the broke volunteers we are, we ordered up half the menu..hehe. It was a great night until he started criticizing Americans because we prefix every other race with _____ American. Like I said he was from South Africa, so how could he talk about us when their country just recently ended the apartheid not even a decade ago??? But anywho, since he was paying we tried to rationalize with him and not pay him too much mind. We left gracious for his generousity but a little ticked by his mentality.

I went to the dentist there and they told me that the reason my tooth hurt was because (and I quote) "God made everything in pairs, and it's missing it's other half". Ummm, and then he said he wanted to do a root canal, without any x-ray or test? That was a definate no, which meant I would have to travel to Dar es Salaam on another long bus ride (7 hours... atleast this road is paved all the way through.)

(sidenote about riding the bus in Tanzania- you can get almost anything you need during this ride...shoes, clothes, food, drinks, jewelry, anything! It's great!)

So I went to Dar and ended up staying for a whole week! I was not to happy about that (didnt have more than 3 days worth of anything!) Although I despise the heat, the many people that harass you and being there by myself, I love the amenities you can get there (for most things, the only place you can get these items). I ate chinese, lebanese, PIZZA(although I ordered it one day and I waited for two hours and called the lady back and she said she forgot and now they were closed! Only in Tanzania, I swear) and real ice cream. I know that may not sound great to you but when you only see beans, rice, ugahli and mchicha (local spinach) you get excited over almost anything.

Oh yeah, good news... I weighed myself and thus far I lost 45 lbs! I am so happy. I have a goal and I have been excercising and stuff. I have even considered running the 5K next year... its only about 2 and a half miles, but it seems like fun. It'll be a great acheivement!

So now I am back in Singida and never thought I would be happy about that! Next week is mid-exams and then easter break. I am excited about that because no teaching next week, then I am off to Morogoro for IST and then to Lindi for a 4 day beach party with other volunteers. Life here is starting to seem normal and I feel like I belong here and actually am making a difference!
Tomorrow is our Women's Day celebration (a little late, but this tanzania...haha) Wish me luck!

*My email is acting up, so I created a new account. My new email address is kimber.s.lynn@gmail.com. Send me some mail! :-)

*My sister is almost due.... OMG! I am so happy, I can't wait to see pics of my beautiful new neice thats coming into this world! Yay!
(and all the upcoming pics of other babies that people are having!)

* Melanie and Sherry, thanks for the box! I received it in Dar a few days ago and I absolutely love it! My address in Singida is:

Stephanie Kimber
PO Box 288
Singida, Tanzania
Via Airmail

Well, I hope everyone is doing well and keeping their jobs... I heard the economy is getting worse day by day... I went to convert some US dollars into Tanzanian Shillings and the rate was 15% lower than it usually is.... I couldn't believe it.

Miss you and love you all very much!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Thank you everyone for all of your encouragement and support through various letters these past few weeks. It seems like when I am having an overwhelming day, I always get a letter encouraging me to continue. It was once said that in Peace Corps you will have some of the highest highs and some of the lowest lows. I feel like sometimes I am on the top of the world because students are responding to my teaching, teachers are excited about upcoming programs that I want to do and everything is going my way. Other times I feel like if one more thing goes wrong... it will be more than I can bear! So the saying I have found to be true, although I am still a neophyte in Tanzania.

Someone told me before I left that I should take this opportunity to learn from people who arent necessarily as "smart" as me. Also that humility is the number one item that should be included on my journey.

I have tried to keep this in mind and allow it to reflect on my outlook in a positive manner. There are many things that drive me insane about this culture (i.e having no concept of a line and although I have been waiting in line for two hours to get money, four people just get infront of me as I was about to go to the teller!) but somethings I truly appreciate. People in this country, especially in my region arent well off finacially ( I live in the poorest region in the country) but you can go to someones house and they practically force you stay for dinner... this culture is all about caring for one another. Also, I like how you can go to someones house and just sit. It's not required to speak, just being in one's presence is enough. This is really good for someone who is still learning the language, you just go to someones house, sit and BE. Another teacher has taken me as her daughter and treats me as so. I absolutely love her two small daughters and she treats me as I am one of the family. Also unlike the states, people are willing to help you out, and dont see it as an inconvience to them. I can just go up to one of my fellow teachers and ask them a question (where to buy this, how can I get that) and not only do they tell you, but most times they will escort you to make sure you are successful. This is really helpful and makes me feel as though I am intergrating into the community because of their commitment for my success in everything, whether it's big or small. Overall, the people here for the most part are loving and caring and I feel honored to be in their presence.

Well a brief update of my life since school has begun.

*Teaching is going well. I like my students (atleast most of them) and I feel like some are really enjoying having a teacher from america. They ask me the most random questions and they crack up when i speak swahili. I was really nervous about teaching, but the students seem to understand and perform well on tasks given. Also I feel like I was able to establish the level of respect (without beating them into submission with a stick) and a friendly friendship. They know when they need to be serious and when we can relax.

~ Using a stick here is normal to discipline children. It's sad to be around, I usually just leave because the mentality that I have observed and was told that "Africans dont respond, unless their is force is brought." This is really depressing because this behavior was started by the british when they came to colonize the country.

*Two weeks ago one of my form 1 students passed away. She was only 13 and she died of malaria. It's sad that people die here so often from a virus that can be prevented. ( I went to the funeral and let's just say that it was an interesting cross-cultural experience.)
~Sidenote: I have been here (at site) 2.5 months and 8 people have died.... most from preventable diseases.

* Many of the teachers at my school have been geting typhoid... I keep telling them its because they dont boil water but no one believes me....

*Two other volunteers and I have decided to put on a women's day program for secondary girls here on National Women's day (March 8th). In this culture girls are expected to marry at 15 and have kids immediately so they can raise a family. Most times education ceases and these young girls are dependent on men(too many times abusive men) for their survival. Here girls are told that they are the inferior sex and arent as intelligent as their male counterparts, which diminshes their aspirations for the future. Also too many times secondary school girls "sell their body" for money for school fees and if they get pregnant they have no future. So I am really passionate about educating girls that they are capable of achieving goals that they have set. We are inviting local women ( a business owner, teacher, police commisioner, tailor and a social worker) to come talk to the girls about how theyovercame the roadblocks that were place to impede their success and how they juggle family and work. Also we are going to have time where the girls can go around and ask questions. I think it is important for young girls to see other women that have broken down cultural expectations so they can have role models and know that since she did, it's possible.

*I started a small program where I allow students to write any question they may have on a piece of paper and give it to me to answer. I have found that many students are too scared to ask me in person because of their lack of english... or because they are embarassed. But thus far I have had an opportunity to educate them on a variety of issues ranging from puberty, to math and america. It's wonderful how inquisite these students are and their desire for knowledge.

* In a few weeks (at the end of march) I will go to my in-service training... I can't believe by that time I would have been here for 6 months. It doesnt seem like that long at all.

* I have made a lot of friends here and I am staring to feel like this is home.... I never thought this day would come.

(Sidenote... I was able to watch the presidential inauguration and honestly I was amazed. I felt like it wasnt true and to see him taking the presidential oath (the same oath peace corps volunteers take) it made me begin to feel optimistic for my future and the direction the country is headed. GOOD JOB AMERICA!!!)

Well I hope all is well in America... I miss you all and please enjoy the snow for me... Winter is my favorite season. :-)